Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

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Book and Author

Book – Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), lives in Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside filled with rolling hills, and thatched cottages. The Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. The Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?

Author – On her website, author Helen Simonson shares: I have lived in America for over twenty years. I have been a long-time and proud resident of Brooklyn and have recently moved with my family to the Washington D.C. area. However, I was born in England, and when I was a teenager, my family achieved the English dream – to move to a house in the country. … As a young woman, I could not wait to go to college in London, or to move three thousand miles away from home to America. Yet I have always carried with me a longing for England that will not fade. I think this dichotomy – between the desire for home and the urge to leave – is of central interest to my life and my writing.

Published in 2010, 368 pages

Awards and Honors –

  • Janet Maslin’s Top Ten Books 2010 New York Times
  • Library Journal Starred Review December 2009
  • Publisher’s Weekly Pick of the Week January 4, 2012


Discuss the themes of the book including inheritance, parents and adult children, defining community by the exclusion of the “other” and whether love is ageless.

Sources for more discussion questions include reading author interviews and listening to author interviews.

Critic– ““The quintessential English village becomes, in Simonson’s hands, the stage on which tradition, racism and the threat of change play out.” —Vancouver Sun


Author Interview:

Inspiration: learn more about The Kipling Society to better understand Rudyard Kipling and also Major Pettigrew.


How would you characterize this book? How would you find a similar title to recommend to someone? For you, what was most prominent about this story? Was this a love story starring seniors? A cross-cultural romance? An international setting?